Arturs Irbe recorded his 30th victory of the season, tying his career high, as the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Nashville Predators 3-1 at the Entertainment and Sports Arena.
Marek Malik, Ron Francis and Andrei Kovalenko each scored as the Carolina Hurricanes picked up an important two points in the Eastern Conference playoff race, winning their third game of the last five.
Irbe stopped 24 shots to reach the 30-win plateau. He is the franchise's first goalie to reach the mark since Mike Liut had 31 wins 13 years ago.
Francis scored his 23rd goal at 10:50 of the first period to make it 2-1. Jeff O'Neill redirected a pass from Gary Roberts from the right side, and Francis fired it past Nashville goalie Mike Dunham as he crossed in front of the net.
Malik's fourth goal, set up by Jeff Daniels and Paul Ranheim, put Carolina ahead 1-0 at 2:57. Malik's shot from the left corner behind the goal line grazed Dunham's right skate and slipped past the post.
Kovalenko sealed Carolina's win with his 15th goal at 14:28 of the third.
Irbe's 30th win matched the career-best total set during the 1993-94 season, when Irbe played for the San Jose Sharks. Irbe also set personal highs for games (74) and minutes (4,412) during that season.
Carolina's all-star forward Sami Kapanen, tied for second on the team with 23 goals, was scratched from the game and will likely miss Friday's crucial game at Buffalo as he recovers from concussion symptoms.
Hurricanes officials aren't sure when Kapanen was injured, but decided to keep him out for precautionary reasons.
1st 2nd 3rd TOTAL
Nashville 0 0 1 1
Carolina 2 0 1 3
First Period: Scoring: 1, Carolina, Malik 4 (J Daniels, Ranheim), 2:57. 2, Carolina, Francis 23 (Roberts, Oneill), 10:50. Penalties: Bordeleau, Nas (roughing), 12:12; G Wesley, Car (roughing), 12:12; Oneill, Car (Ob holding the stick), 17:48.
Second Period: Scoring: None. Penalties: Millar, Nas (holding), 6:55.
Third Period: Scoring: 3, Carolina, Kovalenko 15 (Gelinas, Kron), 14:28. 4, Nashville, Ronning 25 (Kjellberg, Lintner), 17:41. Penalties: Oneill, Car (kneeing), 1:16; Skrastins, Nas (holding), 7:32; Johnson, Nas (high sticking), 7:32; Walker, Nas (roughing), 9:41; Oneill, Car ( double high sticking minor), 9:41; Bordeleau, Nas (interference), 12:23; Karpa, Car (high sticking), 19:09.
SHOTS ON GOAL
Nashville 8 8 11 --27
Carolina 10 9 4 --23
Power-play Conversions: Nas - 0 of 4, Car - 0 of 4. Goalies: Nashville, Dunham (23 shots, 20 saves; record: 18-24-6). Carolina, Irbe (27, 26; record: 30-27-9). A: 0,000. Referees: P Devorski, Trottier. Linesmen: Driscoll, Nowak.
CAROLINA HURRICANES 3, NASHVILLE PREDATORS 1
MARCH 29, 2000
CAROLINA HEAD COACH PAUL MAURICE:
On the game:
“I think the upside to tonight is that we did what we needed to do without extending a lot of energy to do it. I was giving everybody an opportunity to have a stake in the season, that’s why I played four lines tonight. That way each player would have the opportunity to shown his teammates exactly what he was willing to do on the ice to help the hockey club win. We threw the puck at the net a couple times and that worked for us. Other than that it was a pretty quiet game out there. Didn’t get real tired and crossed the finish line without hurting ourselves.
On the playoff picture:
“The test that we failed Monday we have an opportunity to pass Friday. I know (tonight) was a must-win game. I think the boys felt confident in what they needed to do. They could amp it up a little bit.”
On playing four lines:
“I think it was difficult for them at times to play with four lines. They haven’t done that a whole lot this year… The upside is, for the most part, we got to keep everybody’s minutes under 20. With six games in nine nights at some point we were going to have to do that.”
NASHVILLE PREDATORS HEAD COACH BARRY TROTZ:
On the game:
“I thought we played really well. Obviously the first one was a lucky goal. And the third one was a lucky goal. It went off (Fitzgerald’s) knee and into the net. The second goal Ronnie Francis actually threw the puck, it hit Skrastins’s foot and it went to Francis. Cisar was right by it, right next to it. He just didn’t get the stick. So they had two sort of lucky goals. The chances were very even. We had some glorious chances to score, we just couldn’t.”
On having a chance to get back in the game:
“At 2-1, if they wouldn’t have scored at the end of that power play. I was disappointed on the penalty, that was not a good penalty. But I thought we played pretty well.”
“He played pretty well. On the first one, those things happen. The second and third ones I couldn’t fault him at all.”